To the two people out there who haven’t heard of the greatness that is Commander Shepard, allow me to fill you in. Commander Shepard is the main protagonist from Bioware’s Mass Effect series, he (or she) is an individual whose appearance, gender, place of birth, sexual orientation, first name and chosen class has been unrecorded by history (like so many RPG main characters.) Since this character can be either gender (and writing he/she, his/her throughout this entire article will no doubt get annoying to read) I shall be referring to Shepard’s male incarnation throughout, so please don’t take take this as a sign that Femshep is any less brilliant than her male counterpart.
Whether a battle hardened Soldier, a biotic throwing Adept, a skilful Engineer, a sneaky Infiltrator, a charge or die Vanguard or even a jack of all trades Sentinel, Commander Shepard is a man who kicks some serious butt and is capable of tackling the greatest threats in the galaxy and winning. As the saying goes “a hero is only as good as his villain” – or villains in his case – and the bad guys in this franchise are by no means weak, capable of laying waste to entire fleets within minutes of engagement; the Reapers are probably one of most powerful threats a gamer will ever have to face.
The Shepard stands strong against these titanic machines, who have turned galactic genocide into a career choice (that’s one hell of a CV they’ve got). Mercenary Bands, Husks, Geth, Rachini, Krogan, Thresher Maws, The Shadow Broker, Rogue Spectres, Members of Cerburus and even a number of Reapers have fallen to the might of ‘The Shepard’ and his arsenal of kickass weapons and powers. In short if you see Shepard coming over the hill and you’re not on his side, it’s time to pack-up, go home and rethink your life, ’cause if you don’t, you ain’t surviving the next five minutes or so.
Of course Shepard is more than just a killing machine, he also a charismatic leader. His list of allies is as long as his kill streak, and can increase – or decrease – depending on how the player chooses to act. In Mass Effect 2 his crew is mostly made up of strangers, half of them perhaps not the most trustworthy people in the universe. But through his leadership skills honed across many years of service to the Alliance Military, he is able to convince all of them to undertake a mission that will very likely result in their deaths. It also helps that he does them all a favour, hey even ‘The Shepard’ understands the importance of “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours”. Few characters in fiction can inspire the level of commitment he does, if Shepard launched a campaign into hell itself to take down the Devil himself, he would only have to ask and thousands would be standing beside him, ready to take the fight to the lord of hell.
When Shepard isn’t fighting off hordes of angry guys/gals with guns, or rallying the troops with a Paragon/Renegade focused speech, he is having to engage in civil chats (or not so civil) with the many races of the Mass Effect universe (it’s a Bioware game, talking is half the game). Charm or intimidation is the key to any successful conversation and Commander Shepard has mastery of both.
With a single line of dialogue opponents can be made to flee, shop owners persuaded to give a discount and grudges put side aside for the good of the mission. His powers over the spoken word are so great that he is even capable of convincing two main villains from two different games to commit suicide. Add this with the fact that he can skilfully use an interrupt to tip the situation into his favour, Shepard should be running for Office, he’d probably win.
In his spare time, when he’s not feeding his fish and space hamsters, or assembling his latest Starship model kit he ordered off ME-bay, Shepard is helping out complete strangers with their trouble of the game. No task is too big or too small for the Citadel Council’s number one Spectre and the Alliance Military’s greatest soldier. Shepard will drop whatever he is doing, even if that something is rather quite important (like hunting down a rogue Spectre) and give you a helping hand. So your Homeworld is about to get wiped off the map by a Reaper invasion? Shepard will push them back. Can’t decide to give your unborn baby gene therapy? Shepard has the answer. Being stalked by an acid bleeding ‘Alien’? Shepard will bring the alkaloid. Or maybe your son Timmy is trapped down a well, Shepard will pull him out. As long as your willing to give in him some exp and a handful of credits, Shepard will go though just about anything to help you out in your time of need.
Shepard travels all over the Milkway galaxy visiting new places, meeting new people of all sizes and colours and, for the lucky few who don’t end up dead or missing, he forms long term relationships with them. These relationships can evidently bloom into something more, whether it be a strong friendship, a mutual respect for one another or a full blow relationship with it’s own unique romance scene. Seriously there doesn’t appear to be a man, woman or alien who doesn’t in some way fall for ‘The Shepard’ and his customisable facial features. If Captain Kirk had a spiritual successor, Shepard would be quite high up in the running.
It is because of everything above and so much more why I love Commander Shepard. He is the very embodiment of what it means to be a hero. The Illusive Man was right when he stated that “without Shepard, humanity may soon follow”. No one else in the universe could have delayed the Reaper invasion, no one else could have stop the Collectors, no one else could have united the Galaxy for one last stand. Shepard is/was the galaxy’s best last hope for victory for he can make the impossible, possible, as the song goes…
“…no matter what scars you bear
Whatever uniform you wear
You can fight like a Krogan, run like a leopard
But you’ll never be better than Commander Shepard”
(From the Commander Shepard Song: by Miracle of Sound)